China’s government appears to be further tightening its grip on foreign and domestic media and the content they can disseminate in the country.
Two departments that are part of the ruling Communist government’s State Council have just announced that foreign media companies or foreign joint ventures will be banned from disseminating a wide range of content online in China — including text, audio, video, games, animation and maps — without the content first being approved by the government. The Chinese government said the new rules will go into effect March 10.
The move is the latest example of an increasingly restrictive climate in China that is making life difficult for human rights lawyers, academics, closely scrutinized officials and the media. However, the new rules, some observers claim, will be difficult — if not impossible — to enforce.
“Using rules of the print age to govern the Internet does not work,” Ying Chan, the director of the journalism program at the University of Hong Kong told local media. “How do you license media in an age when everyone could become a writer and publisher? With these set of regulations, the government is fighting both market forces and technology.”
China has blocked new organizations’ Web sites in China in retaliation for press coverage it deems inappropriate. Both The New York Times and Bloomberg are currently blocked in China. Social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are also blocked by China’s Great Firewall.
In addition, any content published online in China must be hosted on servers located inside the country, according to the new rules. These rules are consistent with those passed last year requiring technology companies to host their data on local servers — Apple, Microsoft and other tech giants already host users’ content on China-based servers.
President Xi Jinping’s administration is also clamping down on domestic Chinese media, which it already closely controls. Xi undertook a high-profile visit to three of the country’s major state-run media outlets on Friday.
It was the first time Xi has done such a tour of the People’s Daily, Xinhua and CCTV, and when speaking to employees of the outlets the President urged loyalty to the ruling party and to follow the CCP’s leadership in “thought, politics, and action.”
“The media run by the party and the government are the propaganda fronts and must have the party as their family name,” Xi said, according to the AP. “All the work by the party’s media must reflect the party’s will, safeguard the party’s authority and safeguard the party’s unity. They must love the party, protect the party and closely align themselves with the party leadership in thought, politics and action.”